How can I stop my baby from using my breast as a pacifier to fall asleep? I breastfeed and formula feed. Please do not just say try a pacifier because I do and he has a hard time putting and keeping it in his mouth.
Thank you, Heidi
How To Break Baby’s Habit Of Using Mom As Pacifier
I know very well how tough it can be to become a human pacifier for your baby! Maybe it can be good for you to know that at least during the first four months, a baby’s sucking reflex is very strong, and probably most breastfeeding moms feel like human pacifiers at some point during this time.
Not all babies accept real pacifiers – ever! (But the time spent as their human pacifier ends at some point, one way or the other!)
Now, there are a few things you can do to improve the situation. The most important one is to help your baby break the feeding-sleep association. You can do this in two ways; the hard and the gentle.
The hard way – and often very efficient, especially with babies older than 6 months or so, is to simply make up your mind to not allow the eating anymore. Let dad or someone else put your baby to sleep as often as possible and don’t interfere. (And of course, no bottles allowed.)
While it may be tough for a few days, with a sad or angry (or both) baby, who falls asleep late, it usually works. Dad (or you) can rock your baby, use the stroller, offer the baby’s hands to suck on, offer a stuffed animal or whatever, but no eating. After a few days, your baby is likely to have learned the new routine.
The other, gentle way, is to slowly teach your baby how to fall asleep without suckling.
This is how the gentle method works:
When you put your baby to bed (or in your arms or wherever he goes to sleep), I assume with the bottle or breast, let him suckle for a while until he is almost asleep. But right before he actually falls asleep, release whatever is in his mouth. Then press lightly on his chin to keep his mouth shut.
This may sound very strange, but it actually helps the baby to not root for the nipple or pacifier.
Your baby will probably wake up when you do this, and NOT accept it the first few times. Give him the nipple back and repeat the above process. Do this over and over again until he falls asleep without the nipple.
Then continue to do this every time he needs the nipple for falling asleep.
Eventually, he will learn to fall asleep without suckling, and your time as a human pacifier is over (until the next baby arrives… ;-D )
The advantage with gentle method is that you really teach your baby fall asleep in a new way without making him so sad. The disadvantage is that it might take time and that it can be very hard at night to really motivate yourself to continue doing this.
Do you have someone who can help you at night? To be able to share the burden for a week or two would probably be of great help for you.
A bonus if you manage to break the feeding-sleep association for your baby is that it is also likely that he will wake up less often at night if he learns how to go back to sleep without your breast or bottle.
You can read more about these methods and also a “half-gentle” method for slightly older babies in the links below.
I wish you good luck!
More On Babies Suckling To Sleep
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